Research to help support care-leavers into higher education

11 FEBRUARY 2021

Research to help support care-leavers into higher education

A new report provides insights about the systemic barriers to higher education for young people with out-of-home care experience.

  • There are approximately 45,000 children in care in Australia and child protection orders are growing (AIHW, 2020)
  • Researchers found there are systemic barriers to higher education for young people with out-of-home care experience
  • Care-leavers are less likely to attain educational qualifications or to have good health, and are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice and mental health systems

A new report provides insights about the systemic barriers to higher education for young people with out-of-home care experience.

The report is by Dr Emma Colvin (pictured inset, right) Senior Lecturer in law and criminology in the Charles Sturt University Centre for Law and Justice in Bathurst, and Dr Elizabeth Knight (pictured inset, left) at the Centre for International Research on Education Systems at Victoria University.

The research project ‘Supporting care-experienced young people into higher education’ was funded by the Collier Charitable Foundation and offers options to enhance the equitable access to higher education for those leaving care.

Dr Colvin said, “There are approximately 45,000 children in care in Australia and recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report an increase in child protection orders.

“Care-leavers have experienced removal from their parental home during childhood, possibly as a result of neglect, abuse, death of family members, or inability of family members to care for them.

“When removed, children may stay with relatives in a kinship care arrangement, foster care, or residential care, for example, in a group home.

“A significant body of research demonstrates that care-leavers are less likely to attain educational qualifications, are less likely to have good health, and are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice and mental health systems.

“Care-experienced school leavers participation rates in higher education are low; they are three-times less likely to enrol in university, and those who do enter higher education face significant challenges from childhood trauma that may adversely affect their studies.”

Earlier research found there was a ‘lack of formal assistance and information when applying for university’. The new research addresses existing challenges faced by care-experienced young people in accessing information ─ with a specific focus on equitability of access to information ─ and support for access to higher education.

The research findings include:

  • There is a systemic lack of understanding of the needs of care-experienced students in higher education across all education systems;
  • A significant gap exists in post-school transition planning at school, at home, and in governmental support for young people with care experience;
  • There are multiple substantial barriers to accessing appropriate career information for care-experienced young people.

Dr Colvin said the research report provides suggestions for practice, including to higher education institutions, career practitioner professional groups, and other jurisdictions, about how to present information that promotes a transition to higher education.

“It also provides universities with information about barriers to higher education for care-leavers, and offers insights to higher education providers on more inclusive measures to attract and support care-leavers,” she said.

The research project created an infographic which maps barriers to opportunity for young people with care experience. It is a publicly available resource and is used as part of the dissemination pathway of the project.

The report launch will be held in Melbourne (with Zoom webinar) from 2pm to 3pm on Friday 12 February. It will be hosted by Professor Andrew Harvey, Director of the Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research at La Trobe University, with Dr Colvin and Dr Knight in attendance.

Find more information at Supporting Care-Experienced People into Higher Education.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Emma Colvin contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

References:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Child Protection

Colvin, EJ and Knight, EB. (2021) ‘Supporting Care-Experienced Young People into Higher Education’. Collier Fund 4 Report. Charles Sturt University.


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